The Way We Eat Now by Bee Wilson
In this rigorous and wide-ranging book, the food writer Bee Wilson addresses one of the paradoxes of our age, said Tony Turnbull in The Times: why have our diets got so much poorer, even as we have become wealthier? Wilson points out that the healthiest diets today tend to be found in less developed nations, whose inhabitants still subsist mainly on staples such as pulses, grains and vegetables. Yet in richer countries people consume ever greater quantities of meat, sugar and oil: “nutrient-dense foodstuffs” we were conditioned to seek out in times of scarcity, and which, in consequence, we now struggle to resist. Our failure to adapt to the “new realities of plenty” is proving disastrous: one in five British children are overweight by the age of 11; millions are affected by obesity and type-2 diabetes. “Our food is killing us,” Wilson writes, “not through its lack, but through its abundance.”
This book superbly captures just how “unhinged” modern eating has become, said Catherine Cleary in The Irish Times. Wilson highlights, for example, the South Korean internet phenomenon of mukbang, which involves slender women “eating unfeasible quantities of fast food” while chatting to a camera. She considers dietary fads such as clean eating and the adoption of “food substitutes” like Soylent. “The way we grasp at novelties as the solutions to our diet ills,” she comments, “feels somewhat unmoored and manic.” Instead, she advocates a return to basics: eating from old plates (they’re smaller); learning to appreciate the simple pleasures of cooking; educating our children in taste and nutrition. This is, above all, a “thoughtful” book, said Olivia Potts in The Spectator. And I mean that “as the highest compliment”. Wilson embraces the “complexity of modern eating without shelving it as an intractable problem”.